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February 19, 2009 at 11:22 PM

UCLA post-game

Well, no one figured a Pac-10 championship would come easily.
The clearest path UW had to its first conference title in 23 years would have come with a win here tonight against the Bruins.
Instead, UCLA pulled away late and now this will be a dog fight (or, as UW might hope, a Dawg fight) to the end.
“This game here doesn’t mean we can’t still win the conference,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar after UCLA’s 85-76 win here tonight. “We are still in first place. It’s just tighter now.”
Romar seemed more concern in the how than the what-it-meant.
He quickly pointed to the second-half scoring total for UCLA — 51 — continuing a trend on the road. UW also gave up 69 points in a loss at Arizona and 56 against Cal.
“Something we have not done a good job if in our losses is that second half defensively,” Romar said. “They scored 51 points and we scored 49 and we shoot 50 percent and still have a chance to win. We’ve just got to do a better job of getting stops and then we helped them a little bit turning the ball over (17 turnovers) that allowed them to get some transition baskets.”
(For more of the nuts and bolts of what happened, check my game story here.).
In the first game in Seattle, UW did a nice job on Nikola Dragovic (eight points) and Alfred Aboya (four). But those two combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds tonight which Romar thought was a key to the game, as well.
“Dragovic hurt us today,” he said. “He did a good job of opening up their offense (hitting 3-7 three-pointers).”
Also, Darren Collison finally played a good overal lgame against the Huskies with 17 points and a game-high five assists. He was 5-14 in Seattle with 12 points before fouling out late.
UCLA coach Ben Howland noted later that it had been an intense week of practice for the Bruins in the wake of the sweep in Arizona.
“I am very proud of our effort tonight,” he said. “We prepared for three days with lots of physical prep work. Our seniors were great in leading the team. … This is a big game for us to win. They were the first-place team in the Pac-10, but I never doubted our team. We showed great character in bouncing back after a tough road trip.”
Now it’s the Huskies whose character will once again be tested.
They lost the first game of each of their last two road trips — at Arizona and at Cal — before bouncing back to win the back half. That’s what they’ll need to do again Saturday at USC.
“We’ve just got to regroup and try to get a split,” said Jon Brockman. “But we’ve been here before.”
A few more notes:
— Romar called Brockman’s illness strep throat though Brockman said it was more of a flu-type thing. Brockman said it came on suddenly on Wednesday morning. “He did a heck of a job in spite of it,” Romar said.
Isaiah Thomas didn’t have one of his better games going 5-14 for 12 points with five turnovers in 30 minutes. But Romar said UCLA didn’t do anything differently defensively than it had in Seattle. “They are just like Washington State in this regard in that they are going to play hard, tough, man-to-man defense and there’s not a whole lot of difference (from game to game),” Romar said.
— As noted earlier, UW had a season-low in both free throws made — four — and attempts — 10. But no one on the UW side was complaining. “They let us play,” Brockman said. “They did a great job in that they let us play. They called a couple of fouls that needed to be called but it wasn’t one-sided or anything. They let us bang down low.” Dentmon said if there was a problem with the officiating it was that UW was slow to realize that the refs were going to let a lot go. “I don’t think we realized that until the second half,” he said. “We didn’t attack enough (early on).”
— Dentmon said he thought the Huskies needed to be “mentally tougher” when the game got close in the second half. “We couldn’t get over the hump and I don’t think we were mentally tough enough to get over the hump at that point in time,” he said. “They were more of a team than we were and that’s something we’ve just got to really reach down deep into ourselves and find. Because teams win championships and not individuals.”
— There were a few boos for Brockman after his hard foul in the final seconds on Jrue Holiday. Asked if that caused any hard feelings with his brother, Justin, a UW teammate of Brockman’s, Brockman said no. “He said I could have hit him harder.if I wanted to,” Brockman said.
UPDATE — One other thing I meant to mention is that the team was in the locker room for longer than usual afterward. No one came out until a good 15 minutes after the game — usually it’s 5-10 or so. I think there was some heart-to-heart talking going on, though I think the message was also not to let this loss linger and start focusing on USC.
All for now.

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